Kanchanjunga trek

Overview

The Kanchanjunga Trek is a renowned trekking route in the Kanchanjunga region of eastern Nepal. It circumnavigates the mighty Kanchanjunga massif, the third highest mountain in the world at 8,586 meters (28,169 feet). This strenuous trek typically takes around 20-24 days to complete the full circuit. The journey begins in the town of Taplejung, where trekkers acclimatize before heading into the mountains. From there, the trail winds through remote valleys and traditional villages inhabited by Buddhist communities like Ghunsa and Khangbachen. Trekkers cross several high mountain passes like Lapsang La and Mirgin La, some reaching elevations over 5,000 meters. These vantage points offer incredible panoramic views of Kanchanjunga’s towering peaks as well as other Himalayan giants like Jannu (7,710m) and Yalung Ri (8,505m). Some key highlights include trekking through lush rhododendron forests, witnessing the rich local Tibetan Buddhist culture, potentially spotting rare Himalayan wildlife like snow leopards and musk deer, and taking in awe-inspiring mountain scenery of glaciers, turquoise lakes and rugged landscapes. Difficult sections involve navigating glaciers and steep, rocky trails at very high altitudes. Proper acclimatization, excellent physical fitness, cold weather gear and hiring experienced local guides are essential for this challenging yet rewarding trek. Restricted area permits are also required from Nepal’s government. Despite the difficulties, the Kanchanjunga Trek provides one of the most spectacular mountain wilderness experiences in the Himalayas for seasoned trekkers seeking an unforgettable adventure.

Tek's Highlight

  • Pristine wilderness of the Kanchanjunga Conservation Area
  • Traversing ancient rhododendron forests, high altitude meadows, glaciers
  • Encountering Tibetan Buddhist culture in remote mountain settlements
  • Chance to spot rare Himalayan wildlife like snow leopards, musk deer
  • Epic panoramic vistas from high passes and viewpoints
  • Crossing several high mountain passes over 5,000m like Lapsang La, Mirgin La
  • Trekking alongside raging glacial rivers and waterfalls
  • Visiting sacred sites like Buddhist monasteries and chortens
  • Experiencing warm hospitality in remote mountain villages
  • Stunning up-close views of Mt. Kanchanjunga (8,586m) and neighboring peaks
  • Chance to experience the unique culture and lifestyle of the Kirat people

Itinerary

Fly from Nepal's capital Kathmandu to Bhadrapur in the eastern Terai region. From Bhadrapur, take a scenic 3-hour jeep drive up into the Mahabharata hills to the tea plantations of Ilam.

The drive winds through dense jungles, ascending and descending mountainsides. Catch your first glimpse of the massive Kanchanjunga peak dominating the horizon. Taplejung marks the start of trekking.

Begin trekking on quiet trails through quaint villages and alongside the Tamor river. Pass the new Mitlung hydro station before reaching Chiruwa after a 20km day.

Well-paved trails lead through Taplechok, the entry checkpoint into the community-managed Kanchenjunga Conservation Area. Experience the warm local hospitality.

Continue upwards along the roaring Tamor gorge, sometimes hugging close to the powerful waters. The second half involves a steep 7km climb on stone steps to Gyabala's yak pastures.

Ge a chance to catch exciting glimpses of black bears as you trek higher through forests before arriving at Ghunsa, a large village en route.

Spend a day in Ghunsa acclimatizing to the altitude. Visit the ancient monastery and join cultural activities.

Another day for acclimatization in Ghunsa, taking day hikes to help your body adjust

Trek above treeline through larch forests up to the high yak pastures of Kambachan.

Spectacular hike along the glacier moraine brings you towards stunning viewpoints of iconic Jannu Peak.

6-hour return hike to sublime glacial lakes, with towering mountain scenery all around.

Gain significant altitude on the trek to Lhonak, the final village before Kanchenjunga Base Camp.

Early morning trek along the glacier leads to the viewpoint rewarding you with jaw-dropping vistas of Kanchenjunga's soaring peaks. Return to Lhonak.

Retrace your steps back towards the village of Ghunsa.

Continue the return journey to Ghunsa.

Enjoy a rest day in Ghunsa before continuing.

Cross to the remote south side by trekking over the strenuous Selele Pass to reach Tseram.

Short trek to the basic yak herders' camp of Ramche.

Early start to the viewpoint overlooking Kanchenjunga's incredible south face. Return to Ramche and Tseram.

Descend through rhododendron forests alongside the Simbuwa River to Torong village.

Grueling 15km trek over a high ridge, passing through bamboo and rhododendron forests.

Begin trekking out of the mountains towards Taplejung.

Keep trekking out, dealing with any obstacles like bad weather or landslides.

Complete the final leg out to Taplejung. Fly or drive back to Kathmandu.

Includes

  • Airport transfers
  • Accommodation in lodges/tea houses and tents
  • All meals on trek
  • National Park Fees and permits
  • Sherpa guides and porters
  • Internal flights
  • Staff insurance and first aid kit

Excludes

  • International flights
  • Hotel in Kathmandu
  • Personal expenses on trek
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa fees
  • Tips
How difficult is the Kanchanjunga Trek?

The Kanchanjunga Trek is considered one of the most challenging treks in Nepal due to its remote location, high altitudes reached (up to 5,147m), length (20-24 days), and demanding terrain. Excellent physical fitness and prior experience at altitude are essential requirements for this strenuous multi-week trek.

When is the best time to do the Kanchanjunga Trek?

The prime trekking seasons are spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November). During these periods, the weather is generally stable with clear skies, providing optimal conditions and unobstructed mountain views. However, the spring season can experience dusty winds at times.

Do I need a guide and permits for the Kanchanjunga Trek?

Yes, hiring a licensed and experienced trekking guide is mandatory for the Kanchanjunga Trek as it passes through a restricted area. Your trekking agency will also acquire the necessary permits from Nepal’s government on your behalf, including the Kanchanjunga Conservation Area Permit.

What kind of accommodation is available during the trek?

Along the trail, you’ll find basic teahouses and lodges run by local communities. These provide simple accommodation and meals. In more remote areas like Kanchenjunga Base Camp, you may need to camp or stay in very basic herders’ huts.

Is there a risk of altitude sickness on the Kanchanjunga Trek?

Yes, the high elevations reached on this trek pose a significant risk of altitude sickness. Proper acclimatization is crucial, which is why multiple days are spent at places like Ghunsa and Kambachan. Following your guide’s advice and being aware of the symptoms is important.

What kind of wildlife can be spotted on the trek?

The Kanchanjunga region is home to rare Himalayan species like snow leopards, musk deer, red pandas, and even black bears (seen occasionally). You may also spot blue sheep, mountain goats, and various bird species during the trek.

Can solo trekkers or small groups do the Kanchanjunga Trek?

While not impossible, the Kanchanjunga Trek is extremely challenging for solo trekkers or small independent groups due to the remoteness, altitude risks, and permit requirements. Joining an organized trek with a qualified agency is highly recommended for safety reasons.

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Kanchanjunga trek